Each year, JALT welcomes two speakers who represent the values, work, and vision of two teachers who served as leaders in our association: the Bill Balsamo Asian Scholar and the Kevin Cleary Invited Speaker.
Bill Balsamo Asian Scholar
Learning a Foreign Language from ‘Zero’ to ‘Hero’
Apart from Malay, which is the national language, the focus of language learning and teaching in Malaysia has largely been on English. However, the recent Malaysia Education Blueprints encourage the learning of an additional language. Apart from Arabic, Mandarin and Tamil, students are encouraged to learn languages like French, Japanese, German and Spanish. The push for the learning of foreign languages is consistent with the increasing fluidity of the global job market, where multilingual skills are an asset. At the tertiary level, the University of Malaya (UM) is the only university in Malaysia to offer a Bachelor of Languages and Linguistics programme in nine majors, including five foreign languages: French, German, Japanese, Italian and Spanish. The students, who are typically multilingual, generally come into the degree programme with no working knowledge in these languages, thus, making it a challenging teaching and learning situation. This is exacerbated by the fact that the students have to study their department subjects in the new foreign language they are learning. Yet the students quickly become proficient in these languages, and even qualify for study abroad and double degree programmes. In this paper, I will share the Faculty’s experience of teaching these foreign languages. Based on feedback from students and teachers, I will talk about how students learn these languages in their 3.5-year degree programme. I will also present the out-of-class programmes that facilitate the learning of these foreign languages. Lastly, I will discuss the steps being taken to assess the proficiency levels of the students based on the CEFR bands.
Stefanie Pillai is the Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya. Stefanie contributed to Malaysia’s English Language Roadmap, a comprehensive English education plan and has evaluated and assessed several teacher training and development programmes in Malaysia. Her papers have been published in journals such as English Today, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, World Englishes, Language Sciences and Language and Communication.
Kevin Cleary Invited Speaker
Learner Autonomy from an Assessment Perspective
The idea of learner autonomy has attracted language teachers and researchers for over three decades now. While learner autonomy has been considered to be one of the important goals in language education, there has been an increasing interest in the notion of assessing learner autonomy. In this talk, I will present an overview of research on assessing learner autonomy in the language education context, with a particular focus on quantitative approaches. Although quantitative approaches to assessing learner autonomy are often taken as problematic, I will argue that quantitative approaches could contribute to better teaching practices and research on learner autonomy. As an example of attempts to devise an assessment tool for learner autonomy, I will introduce my project on developing an instrument for quantitatively measuring learner autonomy. Finally, I will show how such an instrument can be used in research on learner autonomy, sharing examples of studies in which the instrument I developed was used. Assessment could play an important role in encouraging research on learner autonomy, which will eventually lead to better practices of promoting learner autonomy and, most importantly, better quality of students’ learning.
Fumiko Murase is currently an associate professor at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from Macquarie University. Her recent publications include chapters in Assessment and Autonomy in Language Learning and Realizing Autonomy: Practice and Reflection in Language Education, both published by Palgrave Macmillan.